Wintertime and the duvets and quilts appear on our beds. We are grateful to be warm and cosy and all we have to do is open the linen cupboard and retrieve our favourite bed covers.
Consider the conditions, the time and the place IF our bed cover looked like this mismatched Wagga shown in the picture right?? This particular Wagga is on show in the National Wool Museum in Geelong Victoria. It has (on occasion) been referred to as the worst Wagga ever made!!!
Somewhat unkindly one could say, considering we are looking back to the 1800’s in NSW. Fortunately we now know to value these past examples; learning from our history as we marvel at the determination of early settlers and their survival at that time in a harsh new land.
The Wagga is part of an Exhibition which dates back to the beginnings of English settlement in Australia.
Elizabeth Fry who created an Association for the Improvement of Prison Conditions for convicts in the UK had the idea to issue female convicts (bound for Australia) with quantities of woollen fabrics, wadding, cottons, sewing needles and notions; enough to make bed quilts for themselves and their families while onboard the ships heading to Australia.
This work was also seen as preparation for life skills in the new colony and the possibility of paid work for these women settlers.
Although the idea had merit, it sadly came to nothing during those early difficult years of the settlement. Other women who followed did bring sewing and quilting skills as well as (early) sewing machines along with an attitude ‘to make do’ which became part of the Australian psyche.
Moving through the many hard years of early life in the 1800’s the first known Wagga blankets were made.
The 1920s brought the looming Depression years, tough conditions and shortages of many ordinary day-to-day necessities… and the Wagga Blanket came into it’s own!!!
Made from wheat bags, flour sacks, old worn-out clothing, hessian, burlap… anything that could be ‘layered’, stitched together and used for warm bedding became valuable.
It is believed this name could have come from using the “Wagga Lily Flour sacks” in the making of the layered bed covers. The ‘flour sacks’ were much sought after; quite the prize IF any could be found!!
While those early tough days are far far behind us, the link can be seen between necessity and creativity. ‘Works of art’ that we quilters bring to life through imagination today can surely be a ‘nod to the perseverance’ and achievement of clever hands and the desire for attractive bedcovers in a home all those years ago.
We quilters might hope ‘our’ modern-day-Waggas will find places in our families history books.
Let’s see… if handcrafts in 2023 will be worth remembering??? Our quilting group meets on the 1st, the 3rd and the 5th Wednesday of each month at 9.30am at the Community Health Centre, Cnr of Arcadia Rd and The Glade, Galston.
For further information please call Carole on 9894 7749.